If writing a book is a battlefield, here’s how to win

This business about how to write a book is not for the fainthearted. How do you write those first 10 pages to ensure the reader will read on?

There’s no sugaring the blow: the writing process is a pure brain squeeze that demands enormous creative commitment. And rewrites. And coffee.

You also need a thick skin and a brave heart to survive on the book-writing battlefield. Writers are fighting to get noticed and millions of books are begging to be read. It’s brutal out there.

The battlefield and how to write a bestseller book are not so different in that tactics are more effective than chaos. It does no harm to think how military personnel would approach a book-writing mission.

Attributed to military general Sun Tzu, the art of war military treatise crosses over into a writer’s world. Here’s how to win:

Know the twists and turns in your book. Plans can never be too detailed because dialogue, action and character development depend on accurate sign posting in the plot. If you lose this direction, you lose it all and frustrate the reader. Map out storytelling terrain otherwise you will fall into ditches.

Respect the element of surprise. This is a writer’s finest gift – springing the unexpected on the reader. The “I-didn’t-see-that-coming” moments keep the reader hooked.

Be honest and brutal. What are the sticking points in your book? Assess the first 10 pages as though you were a literary agent sifting through the slush pile. What would turn you off? Find your weakness before someone else does – and turn them into strengths.

Do your research. The reader wants to inhale, taste, see, feel and find out all about the world you have created. Make sure you know what/where you’re writing about and bring it to life through description and imagery.

Know your competition. Identify the successful writers in your field. Learn from them and work out what gives them bestseller status? Assess their unforgettable characters, well-executed plot and credible dialogue and see how your book shapes up in comparison. Use the intelligence to make your work stronger.

Become a marketing expert. Reassure literary agents and publishers that you will help to sell and promote your book. It isn’t enough to write a book these days, you need to prove that you can market it ruthlessly, tirelessly and passionately. Active social-media status is crucial.

Define the genre. Make sure you know WHERE your book will stand in the marketplace and HOW it will stand out. Know what “type” of book you are writing and remain true to its origins. The reader has realistic expectations and high hopes. If, for example, you are promising a “psychological thriller” you had better deliver it. In addition, the book cover should complement content and genre – and should stand out on a crowded book display.



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